Dallas Eakins said after Friday’s terrible loss to San Jose that he doesn’t like to make personnel decisions directly following a game. He likes to sleep on it. He did that, and came back Saturday with a lineup that inserted David Backes, Troy Terry, and Danton Heinen and subtracted Sam Steel, Derek Grant, and, most notably, Trevor Zegras.
The Ducks started somewhat better in front of Ryan Miller, though they still trailed after a period, and their lack of discipline was evident as they took three penalties in the first frame.
The goal came from Duck killer Evander Kane, who has three goals and seven points against the Ducks in five games this year. It was a long side zing that went in just inside the post with Miller cheating a little bit to his right. All night, he moved more than he typically does, sliding to the sides of his net on several occasions, though he was mostly in charge of his net despite an outcome that didn’t turn out for the Anaheim side.
The Sharks played Martin Jones, who has been troubled this year and whose numbers are weak: 7-6-21 record, 3.84 GAA and .879 save percentage coming in. Four of his wins have come on the shootout.
The Ducks tied the game when a flying Max Jones came down the left wall and picked the puck up, then switched to his forehand as he cut across in front of the net. It was shot 11, to San Jose’s 10. This was with about five minutes gone in the second period.
The Sharks forced it to turn around just 55 seconds later, when a one-timer by Kevin LaBanc went up and over the shoulder of Miller. The netminder was playing his 788th game, looking for his 390th win, a victory that would put him ahead of Dominik Hasek on the all-time list. Miller definitely doesn’t look over 40, despite being just that. And he’ll obviously eventually pass the Dominator, and then some, if he plays as long as Hasek did (until 43).
The second period was mostly Sharks, though Max Jones of the Ducks had a good turnaround shot with about six minutes left. On the San Jose side, Matt Nieto cut to the net and switched to his forehand as he came off right wing. Miller made the stop.
Jones was the one to comment on what the Ducks needed: “Simple plays. We really need to dumb it down. . . . We need to work hard every shift,” he said after period two.
He elaborated more after the game, an eventual 3-1 Sharks victory. “It’s frustrating. We’re all competitors, and we all want to win. . . . It’s not easy. You can’t just show up and put your sticks out there and expect to win. You’ve got to come ready to work every day. We’re struggling a bit executing small, minor plays. Our systems, we’re trying to dumb things down and be simple. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
The shots through two were 22-16 for the Sharks. They were also ahead in faceoffs won at 68%.
The lines for Anaheim looked like this: Henrique centering Rakell and Silfverberg; Getzlaf in between Comtois and Terry (on the line in place of the usual Rakell); Heinen (newly reinserted) with Lundestrom and Jones; and DesLauriers, Lettieri, and Backes.
Of the four, what stood out was more people than lines. Getzlaf had two toe-drag moves for wrist shots in the first two frames. Jones was all over the ice. Heinen made some nice moves and dishes. Lundestrom always seems to make an impressive pass or two.
Invisible? Lettieri and Backes, largely speaking.
The third period saw San Jose put one more past Miller for the aforementioned 3-1 final. Dylan Gambrell got that one. The Ducks pressed near the end but couldn’t make anything happen despite pulling Miller with about three minutes remaining.
There were some highlights in the period. Troy Terry put the puck back to Heinen in the slot for a quick one-timer and a low pad save by Jones. Lundestrom came in on one knee trying for the rebound but didn’t get proper wood on it. Lundestrom had another good chance but couldn’t elevate it past Jones. Later, Max Comtois got the puck all alone in front, wide open in the slot, and he launched it over the net. He’s capable of scoring, as is evident. Perhaps this was emblematic of how things have gone for the team of late.
Dallas Eakins said after, “We were better than last game, but still not good enough, simple as that. We’ve got to, to a man, be harder to play against. Treat that puck like it’s our wallet.” He went with the metaphor for a few sentences, then added on to what Jones had said. “I thought their mood was great before the game. . . . Our whole group should be frustrated. If you’re just walking in here every day like it’s all rainbows and butterflies, that’s not a very good attitude. There’s got to be frustration, but you’ve got to channel that in the right direction.” He mentioned that the forecheck was late, and that that is normally a strength for the team.
Statistically, as the game wound up, the numbers looked like this: the Sharks outshot Anaheim 33-27. They won in faceoffs 55% to 45%. They were better in blocks but got outhit.
The Ducks now have the Avalanche, in Colorado, for a single game Tuesday. The Sharks go to Vegas for a pair early next week.
Carter Rowney, it has been declared, is out with an injury for the rest of the season. He’s superior on the Ducks’ penalty kill.